Last One? 1981 Datsun 310 GX

Those of us who are into vintage Japanese vehicles often enjoy the unusual ones, the non-240Zs and the non-RX7s. The cars that were never the golden child but just had something interesting about them. I’m surprised to see a 1981 Datsun 310 GX still out there, and in good condition, no less. This one can be found here on eBay in Washington, Indiana. There is an unmet opening bid price of $1,500 and no reserve after that. Let’s check it out.

A lot of you just rolled your eyes and most likely clicked to the next vehicle here on Barn Finds. We know that these oddball cars aren’t for everyone. But, for those of us who follow the vintage Japanese car scene, I can tell you that it’s very unusual to find a Datsun 310 GX at all let alone in this condition.

There’s the view, that unusual basket handle roof treatment and that big, curved rear hatch glass – the 310’s signature features. The profile isn’t quite as quirky and as cool, as some (me) would say, as the Datsun F-10, but I think the 310 coupe has a great look to it. The Datsun 310 was based on the Nissan Pulsar and this one is from the era when Nissan was easing into the Datsun-to-Nissan transition stage so it’s badged as Datsun 310 by Nissan. I had a two-door 1983 Datsun/Nissan Sentra which was also double-badged and it was a fantastic car that I should have kept.

The interior is showing more wear than the exterior seems to show, but any and all of that can be fixed. The dash isn’t cracked which is a huge bonus and being a top-of-the-line GX, it has a 5-speed manual. The rear cargo space isn’t huge but it’s enough for most people to use for daily grocery duties. The owner is a surgeon who commutes daily with this car to the hospital where they work, believe it or not.

The engine should be Nissan’s A15, a 1.5L inline-four which had 65 hp. The current owner bought this car from the original owner who had parked it for years. They drained the gas and put in a Holley electric fuel pump and have changed the oil twice with synthetic oil. Do any of you remember the Datsun 310 GX?

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  1. bone

    I believe this was Datsun’s first entry into the front drive market in the U.S. Like most economy cars of the early 80s it wasn’t much of a car , but it would be fun to have one now – How many people would tell you they used to have one when you’re at a car show ?

    Like 5
    • That AMC Guy

      I thought the F-10 was Datsun’s first front drive model but I’m too lazy to look it up.

      Like 4
      • Rick

        I believe the F10 was the first. My Grandfather had, I think it was a 77, the 3 door hatch in gold. It was a 5 speed. That car would go anywhere in the snow.

        Like 2
    • Steve

      I had one of these painted the exact same color that I bought brand new. It was actually a lot of fun to play around in and I never had a problem with it. I wouldn’t mind having one now.

      Like 6
      • bry593

        I had an ’80 310GX way back in 1988. It looked just like this except with a Chevette style hatchback. Would do 55mph and get great gas mileage. Was also extremely reliable. I sold it for $150 at 177k miles, but it needed a clutch.

        Like 2
    • Mike Rodz

      This was my first car, except mine was a 1980 Black with Red interior. Bought it in 1983 in Killeen Texas. When I was at Ft Hood TX. For the grand price of $4400 dollars. Sold it a couple of years later for $4000

  2. Miguel

    A friend of mine had one in high school and it was even this color.

    I don’t think this is the GX model as my friends car was and it had different tail lights.

    This car has the base tail light with the amber turn signal under the red brake light. The GX lights had the amber turn light in between two red brake lights.

    Like 3
  3. Gug Gug Ly

    Nope. I got two – both nicer. Anyone wanna buy one?!😉

    Like 8
  4. Dave

    I remember these…they usually began rusting immediately after exposure to oxygen and the payment book outlasted the car!

    Like 6
  5. local_sheriff

    Believe it or not, but I saw a Datsun Cherry of this gen filling up at a gas station this very week and it’s still winter here. Until then I hadn’t seen one in years.
    Mom’s first car was the next gen bought new in ’84, also badged as both Nissan and Datsun. She drove it for ten years and apart from some rust appearing when it was sold I don’t think there was ever anything wrong with

    Like 2
  6. Tripp

    I was struck by just how much it resembles a much more popular car from that time: the Prelude.

    Like 1
  7. Bob C.

    I do remember these cars, but for some reason the RWD 210s seemed more ubiquitous.

  8. DAN

    I had one in 1986, got 38mpg ! I think it was a flook :) girlfriend wrecked it in no time….

    Like 2
    • Miguel

      You were checking gas mileage in 1986?

      Like 5
  9. nlpnt

    There were three body styles of 310, all hatchbacks. This one with the curved hatch glass and basket handle trim was called a coupe, and there was a “sedan” hatch with two doors – the only one offered in non-GX trim – or four.

    Other markets also got the Cherry/Pulsar in two- and four-door sedans with the same two-box profile as the non-coupe hatchbacks and a somewhat stubby looking wagon, which I’ve only seen pics of as a four-door. I’m 90% sure all six body styles weren’t offered anywhere in the world except Japan.

    Like 1
  10. Mr.BZ

    In 1980, my girlfriends 74 Rabbit was burning oil and the automatic only had D, N and R functioning. I shopped around and the only dealer to show me a decent trade-in value (w/o ever seeing the car) was a local Datsun dealer, and only on a 1980 310GX 4 door they had. So we signed the deal (as if married) and set it up to swap cars the next day. I lived about 25 miles away so I had to stop twice to add STP, once just blocks from the dealership. With my fingers crossed, I headed down the highway for the last mile or so, floored it to get up to speed (about 45 was all that was left) spewing smoke like a coal-roller and then threw it into N, it died and we coasted into the parking lot. As I filled out the final paperwork I was sweating like a pig hoping they wouldn’t insist on their own test drive, which they did not. I slithered out of there like the guilt-ridden snake that I was with our new car and never looked back.

    Like 12
    • Maine Man

      Hilarious story! My wife and I did the same thing a year ago when we coasted my Audi A3 with oil pouring out the blown rear main seal into the BMW dealer (two towns away) to trade it on a 3 series wagon. Luckily they didn’t bother to drive it and see the puddle forming below it.

      • JoeNYWF64

        I remember seeing a 1st gen camaro dumping its coolant(“relieving itself”) INSIDE! all over the floor in a State run inspection facilty.
        One of the hoses slid off. I stuck around & waited & the owner later reattached the hose, added water & drove away.
        I don’t think the car passed. I’m sure he never went back to THAT location with that car. lol

        Like 1
  11. Mark M.

    In Connecticut, these still ran great, but right to the scrap yard , lasted maybe 7 years tops,really rusted high up on the body too.

    Like 1
    • don

      You’re not lying , all these imports dissolved quickly in Connecticut ! We used to say that the engines ran forever like a lawnmower, but the bodies rusted away like a beer car

  12. irocrobb

    I had a 1977 F10 in 1981. Had a valve drop at 62,000 miles. It was a FWD car and thinking back,it was awful car. The shifter was pitiful and the car was under powered. My next daily driver was a 4 door Accord. What a drastic improvement.

    Like 1
  13. Bob C.

    The low end Datsuns of that era were simply throwaway cars. They rusted out like wildfire and they were hit or miss mechanically wise. Great MPG though.

    Like 1
  14. Superdessucke

    A friend’s skinflint pessimistic dad bought one of these new in 1980. I remember going to the auto show with him that year and he criticized pretty much everything – which in 1980 was warranted honestly but the guy was overall very negative in outlook. A true glass-half-empty type of person.

    I guess this odd looking little thing satisfied his high standards or, more likely, he got it at a huge discount. I distinctly recall him bragging that it didn’t need air conditioning due to the vent placement. I wonder if he still felt that way in August, LOL!

    Like 4
  15. GeorgeL

    My girlfriend at the time (late ’80’s) had one of these in gold. Nissan must’ve put the thinnest possible layer of paint on those wheels because hers were rusted as well and the car wasn’t even that old! Drove me nuts, I had to paint them for her!

    • JoeNYWF64

      Have you noticed the rust on most “black” modern steel wheels?
      The cheap grey plastic wheel covers should at least have covered the whole steel wheel to hide that ugliness.
      Never saw that on uncovered 60’s steel wheels that quick!!
      Probably a ploy now to encourage you to buy more expensive aluminum wheels.

  16. Tony C

    I had one, a 85 I believe? Brown and beige with a stripe that matched the base of the roof in the back and ran forward. Think Starsky & Hutch. I sold it with 5500 miles on it. It drove comfortably, but was a huge lemon. Shame, because I really liked the car. Bought it right off the showroom floor from Amity Nissan on Long Island.

  17. Tony A Sain

    As a starving college student, I went to a shady car lot to test drive a $600 Subaru. The clutch on the Subaru wouldn’t hold at much over 2500 RPM, so the dealer offered me a 310GX for the same price. I remember the rear shocks were completely shot, to the point where water squirted out of them when I extended them after I had them off the car when I was replacing them. Stuck in traffic, it would always start overheating, so I would turn on the a/c. The a/c didn’t work, but it would make the electric fans switch to high. The one thing I remember most was that, when you put it in reverse, a little ding-ding-ding chime would start inside the car. I guess the shift was so sloppy, they wanted to be sure you knew it was in reverse. I traded it for… A Suzuki Samurai, I believe.

    Like 1
  18. emeltz Member

    My mother bought one new in 1980, metallic brown with some black graphics on the sides under the hatch glass and tan dealer installed tape pinstripe. It had round headlights instead of the square that the 1981s had. She wanted a fuel efficient front drive after getting out of a 1973 Malibu 2 door as gas was getting pricey. It was fun to drive for a kid in high school with the 5 speed and it would do handbrake slides nicely in the snow though a tall curb stopped it pretty quickly! She kept it in the garage and it was always babied until my brother got a hold of it. I had a later version in 1985, a Pulsar NX.

    Like 2
  19. Jeff M

    You could change the clutch disk and pressure plate with out separating the engine and trans by leaning over the right side fender. I demo derbied a few of these

  20. JoeNYWF64

    The rear side windows roll down! Not sure how far.
    I doubt they did on a 2 door Cadillac in ’81!
    Could you get a 310 hardtop with frameless glass?

  21. Louis Chen

    This specimen gave me great memory! I had the same model 310 GX, same color, 5 spd., mine had A/C same color interior but my interior was all torn up and the exterior blue paint had faded. It was my first experience with a Japanese car-the other was a ’72 Dodge Colt. Mine had over 250K miles and I had it for 4 years when I was living in Socal. The only thing that I had replaced was the clutch! The amazing thing was the A/C was still working fine was my “Rag Doll” was trashed due to an accident. After this good experience with Japanese car, I “graduated” to the BIG TIME and broke down & bought a REAL JAPANESE SPORTS CAR- an ’86 TOYOTA SUPRA! I really missed my “Rag Doll”. Too bad this car is too far from me or else I would be able to “relive” my good memories.

    • Dave

      I paid $400 for one. I loved that car. FWD so it was ok in winter. No frills but ram great.

  22. wjtinfwb

    Fraternity brother came back to school with a new 310 GX in 1981. Red with crushed red velour. Ugly car but Tom was a good looking outgoing kid and any car in college was an asset. Good memories!

  23. Tommy Kiefer

    Wow, I had the twin same year color and condition back in 1990 while in high school. I took off the rear hatch for a bit during spring break on the beach in Daytona and wanted to make it a Targa lol. Good car, with good mpg but no power!

  24. Lisa McD

    My first car. In the darker red. It got 38 mph on the hwy and that was with the catalytic converter California cars have before either states did. No excuse cars can’t get that kind of mileage today. I only got rid of it bec the transmission went out and it had a transverse engine.

    • JoeNYWF64

      Modern cars are a lot safer & a lot HEAVIER – even the small cars – with all those air bags, computers, etc. And weight reduces mpg. I believe you could lift up the rear of the tiny 2 cyl early ’70s honda mini car. lol
      Tho i bet mpg was excellent with that car. & you did not need fuel injection either.
      If your 310 was not rusty & was not to ever be used in bad weather, it might have been worth the expense to fix the trans – if the motor was good – was it automatic or manual? 3, 4 or 5 speed?
      I don’t think Datsun had a tiny rear wheel drive car avail here , which would have been easier to swap out a trans, but toyota did – in the 70’s – but all these cheap disposable cars rusted out, like small american cars back then. Few left.

      • Mike F.

        Bought one brand new in 1979 as a cheap car to get around in for a few years. Drove it from Denver to Tucson 3 – 4 times, no issues even in the New Mexico and Arizona mountains. Fun car to drive if you could ignore the awful gear whine. Did exactly what I wanted to do…..drove it a couple of years and then bought a 1981 Honda Accord. I never thought any more of that 310 than I did about our vacuum cleaner or dish washer. Just an appliance to get around…..

  25. Shawn

    I’ve got an 81 310 5 door 4 speed with 130k miles. My grandpas best friend bought it new. He then sold it to my grandpa. My grandpa gave it to my mom for her high school graduation. Then my mom didn’t want it when her and my dad got divorced so she gave it to him. And now my dad is finally letting me take her over after years of hounding him about it lol. Car still runs like new but boy does the body have some stories to tell. Like being dropped off a lift during a service and landing on its side. Or hitting 3 deer in one week driving by salmon idaho. She’s got character and wouldn’t have her any other way

  26. Tim Myers

    I had a 1981 Datsun 310GX….burgundy. It had rack & pinion steering which was great when driving but difficult when parallel parking.

  27. Mike F.

    Bought one brand new in 1979 as a cheap car to get around in for a few years. Drove it from Denver to Tucson 3 – 4 times, no issues even in the New Mexico and Arizona mountains. Fun car to drive if you could ignore the awful gear whine. Did exactly what I wanted to do…..drove it a couple of years and then bought a 1981 Honda Accord. I never thought any more of that 310 than I did about our vacuum cleaner or dish washer. Just an appliance to get around…..

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